Pastor David Barnhouse was jarred out of his sleep when the vehicle his friend was driving suddenly veered off the road. But his friend, a local Zambian pastor, hadn’t lost control. He was trying to hit an owl.
Zambia is officially and culturally a Christian nation. Nonetheless, most Zambians, even those who profess Christ, still cling to animist superstitions, including fear of chameleons and owls, which are considered bad omens. Some instances, like denting a car just to kill an owl, are humorous. But when parents treat their sick children with charms to ward off evil spirits, instead of using medicine for malaria, children die.
David is going to Zambia to teach people to trust in Christ alone. “You can’t trust Jesus to escape hell and then run to the witch doctor when you have a problem.” By taking the message of creation into the bush, where animism is strongest, he points people to a Creator more powerful than any evil spirit.
Often David shows a video about the six days of Creation and follows with the The Last Adam, a fifteen-minute evangelistic video that moves from scenes of Adam’s sin to Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. The images carry the message, even to those who don’t know English. Zambian audiences are riveted. Then David shows the video a second time, pausing occasionally to explain it in the tribal language.
This creative missionary also displays live animals to showcase God’s power and wisdom. He especially likes chameleons because of the superstitions surrounding them. As David demonstrates the Creator’s engineering genius, he doesn’t need to attack the witch doctor’s false teaching directly—audiences see for themselves that the truth doesn’t match what they’ve been taught.
Interestingly, he doesn’t often encounter evolutionary teaching in Zambia. There, the creation message, including its biblical perspective on science, has a different benefit. It frees people from animism, just another form of false religion. David’s burden is to reach the lost with the news that Christ the Creator is their Savior, and as Christians they can abandon their foolish traditions and grow in their knowledge of the truth, found in Christ and His inerrant and authoritative Word.
Everywhere in the world, Christians must address deep-seated cultural and religious errors. Scripture is the key that the Holy Spirit uses. “When people look at the grand scheme of who God is and understand the truth of His Word,” says David Barnhouse, “all of a sudden the chameleon they’ve been so afraid of looks very little.”